Joystiq - Grinding and its relationship with RPGs
Rowan Kaiser's regular RPG column at Joystiq looks at "grinding" within the genre:
Describing one's actions in Skyrim sounds a lot like "grinding": you randomly fight enemies in non-essential caves, and in so doing, improve your character with experience, money, and items. How is that different from spinning in place in (increasingly rare) games with random encounters? That's where the traditional definition of grinding starts to fall apart. See, the joy of Skyrim is the exploration. One may not play for the main plot at all, so defining these actions as "not-grinding" sounds absurd. But in Wizardry VII, the joy isn't completing the main plot either. It's interacting with the skill and class system, which, of course, is accessed through the experience points gained primarily from combat. Actions which are traditionally described as "grinding" – inessential, repetitive tasks which build up the player character's abilities – are not inessential after all.